Foster parents lose responsibility for 12 year-old

Children|August 26th 2015

A 12 year-old girl is to be formally taken into care after her foster parents physically abused and neglected her.

The girl in question, ‘G’, was born in October 2002. At the age of 13 months, her mother placed her with ‘JK’ and ‘LM’ in an informal fostering arrangement. At the time, G’s mother, an asylum seeker from Zimbabwe, was involved in a relationship with JK’s son.

At the Family Court in Blackpool, Her Honour Judge Singleton said:

“I note that [the mother] had the difficulty of being both HIV positive and also having a very uncertain immigration status at the time of that placement. Her immigration status now seems to have resolved. I also note that an informal private fostering arrangement might be seen as more culturally normal in Zimbabwean society than perhaps it would be here.”

JK and LM, both British, were granted a residence order for the girl and held legal parental responsibility for G. She remained with them until March 2013. G’s mother had some contact with her daughter until the foster parents were granted a formal residence order. Contact between the two has only resumed since G was taken into care on an interim basis by Lancashire County Council.

In February 2010, the foster parents moved with G from their home near Scarborough in North Yorkshire to Lancashire. By that point two reports had been made to the police about the girl by neighbours and primary schools near her near home in Lancashire had also said they were worried about her welfare. But social workers concluded that no further action was necessary.

G began having sessions with a counsellor at her school. Eventually, in March 2013, G told the counsellor that JK had been cruel to her and abused her on a number of occasions.

The school alerted social services and plans were made to take G into care that very day. However, this was not followed through and she was sent home, even though the school had already informed the couple of events. The Judge described this failure as “remarkable” and “shocking”. G was not sent to school the following day, prompting the police to go and check on her. The following day KJ was required to bring the child into hospital for an examination. There doctors detected scars and old injuries on different parts of her body. A significant number of these were thought to be the result of scalding.

G was interviewed by the police and her claims remained consistent with the descriptions she had given the counsellor. She was placed with a new set of foster carers, with the agreement of her foster parents, and the family’s local authority launched care proceedings.

They alleged that the injuries had been inflicted by one or both of the couple and even if one of them had not been involved, that person was guilty of a “gross failure to protect.” The couple had even, they claimed, allowed three Rottweiler dogs to bite the child.

The foster couple have had no further contact with G since she was moved into the care system. Meanwhile her girl’s biological mother was traced. Social workers had hoped that she might assume responsibility for her daughter’s care, but the girl was not responsive to this idea, Judge Singleton explained, “because it would seem that G has a very negative perspective of her birth mother and resists all attempts to rebuild that relationship.”

Nevertheless, G’s mother still hopes to form a good relationship with her daughter in time. Judge Singleton described the mother as somebody “motivated to do the best by her daughter in what have turned out to be extremely difficult and distressing circumstances.”

The girl moved to live with a new foster carer in May last year as the first was moving to Scotland, and the new carer is, the Judge noted, committed to caring for [G] during the rest of her childhood.”

JK and LM “indignantly” denied the local authority’s allegations, but Judge Singleton concluded:

“Both of these people, JK and LM, are responsible for emotional neglect and abuse. They did not allow this child to have or promote her to have a positive self-image. …They each treated her with cold contempt which also emerged during the course of their evidence. They dealt with her racial identity insensitively – or, frankly, they did not deal with her racial identity at all. Their approach to her was desultory.”

She concluded:

“I also consider that they were jointly responsible for hiding the child from the attention of professionals, particularly on the last day before she came into the care of the local authority.”

The couple’s residence order and parental responsibility for G were both ‘discharged’ (cancelled).

The case is available to read here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. Guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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